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What is a simple home backup software which works with a variety of OSes?

Right now, I have a couple of laptops and a desktop running various versions of Windows and Linux. I am currently just manually copying over stuff to dvd's and external hard drives, but as our media is growing (pictures, code etc) I need to find a better solution, preferably automated. Whatever it is, needs to support at least the major operating systems (Windows, *nix, and Mac), have secure options, and also preferably using open source or free tools.

I was thinking of potentially using Amazon's backup service, but I think I would prefer to have daily or weekly backups made locally to a separate machine, and than send the backups to the amazon service.

This has really come about as I am starting my own business at home and really want a better long term solutino.

Any thoughts, ideas?

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migrated from Oct 8 '09 at 13:25

This question came from our site for professional and enthusiast programmers.

marked as duplicate by random Jul 7 '10 at 0:17

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

@Casey - Create an account and associate it with your SO account to get ownership of the question. – ChrisF Oct 8 '09 at 13:27
Duplicate? See, among many others, "Looking for simple home backup software for a variety of OSes" at… – Arjan Oct 8 '09 at 15:04
@Arjan - This was automatically migrated from SO, where there were (quite rightly) no Home Backup questions. – CJM Oct 8 '09 at 16:15
True, but now it's found a home on SU, why not close it right away? – Arjan Oct 8 '09 at 20:58
Not only that, the question pointed to by "possible duplicate" has been deleted. – Peon Mar 4 '12 at 18:55

12 Answers 12

I really like my Windows Home Server. You could install cygwin and use rsync for the Linux systems.

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I use Windows Home Server to do daily backups and on top of that JungleDrive to backup my personal photos to Amazon S3. JungleDrive also runs nicely on WHS. All is done automagically – Ghostrider Apr 8 '10 at 0:13

A friend of mine swears by Bacula for backing up a multitude of different machines. I've also used Mozy in the past for offsite backup.

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RSYNC is pretty good option for backups, especially over the LAN or internet. Preferrably you need some kind of unix machine to backup to though there is now pretty good Windows option too. With rsync you can easily do rotating backups with hardlinks, that way you can have a full backup for every day of the week, or every week of the year, and there is not much overhead, the data is only stored once on the server.

There is plenty of guides and tutorials on how to use rsync on Linux and for Windows I highly recommend DeltaCopy, a GUI for rsync server/client.

My usual setup makes weekly backups of not so important stuff to a server on my LAN and critical files like emails are rsynced to a hosted server in another country, just in case my town gets hit by a meteor.

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I was thinking of potentially using Amazon's backup service, but I think I would prefer to have daily or weekly backups made locally to a separate machine, and than send the backups to the amazon service.

If privacy isn't a concern, any number of cloud storage hosts (amazon, mozy, dropbox) would suffice. I use dropbox and it works perfectly across Windows/Mac/Linux. If you want something scheduled using rsync, is another vendor that may suit you better. In terms of cost, I can't say for sure that they're better/worse than S3 or other companies, but it looks like they're more flexible and they seem to really push their free custom support for whatever you're working with.

This has really come about as I am starting my own business at home and really want a better long term solutino.

Okay, now we're getting a little more serious. Home business? I'd recommend the following:

  • NAS (network attached storage) device (minimum 2 drives up to 6-8 drives)
  • UPS (uninterrupted power supply) do not neglect this

I own a 500GB NAS currently and having the UPS is a life saver. If you only knew how much the power actually fluctuates even within the U.S., a NAS is of no benefit without a UPS.

I need to find a better solution, preferably automated. Whatever it is, needs to support at least the major operating systems (Windows, *nix, and Mac), have secure options, and also preferably using open source or free tools.

You can use rsync or other utilities for whatever OS you're running to automatically backup to the NAS. Some NAS appliances offer Rsync built-in so you can then have the NAS box backup to Amazon S3 and the like.

You mentioned pictures and code. Code isn't so large in comparison to photos (obviously). Depending on the current total size of storage needed now, I would try to calculate a growth rate and get a NAS. There are a few good vendors with numerous options and price points.

Off the top of my head, I'd recommend these manufacturers (in no particular order): Netgear, Drobo, or QNAP. They all support the 3 major OSes (Win/Mac/*nix) but with ranging features and prices. If price is a concern, get a 2-disk model but if you have some budget for more capacity, go for 4/6/8 disk models as storage is always being consumed for home and the office.

In terms of actual RAID levels, in your case I would probably go with whatever the vendor of the NAS uses. Netgear has XRAID2. Drobo has their own RAID solution. They're meant for consumers who need a simple device that just works. Getting bogged down in the different RAID levels won't actually help you much. As long as you have any redundancy with a UPS, your storage situation is handled. Where you want to shuffle that data to (Amazon, Mozy, Dropbox,, etc. etc.) is up to you, but it may be overkill.

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I'm going to use a strategy similar to this:

  • 2 massive external hard drives (just gotten myself a 1.5TB drive + enclosure which should cover me for a while
  • Nightly (or as frequently as I can) incremental backups to the first drive
  • Keep the second drive somewhere else (at work, a friends etc...) and swap them over every month or so
  • I'm also going to use shadow copies on the external drive (I use Windows Server 2008) - that way I should be able to revert to any previous version of a backed up file (protecting against accidental deletions even after I've backed up that deletion to disk.

The drive has not yet been delivered so I'm not sure what program I'm going to use to do the backups, but I'll probably just go for a windows rsync port + a batch file to do the rsync and create the shadow copy at the same time + a scheduled task to do this every night whenever my computer is left on overnight.

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You can have a centralized solution running a backup application in the computer that connects to the backup devices, and receiving data from other computers using windows file sharing. I prefer linux, so I'd try to have a linux pc serving that purpose, rsync could be used (you could search for a graphical application). Instead, if you run windows on the main backup computer, I found the free windows-only Cobian Backup to be the best.

Bacula has many features that may be excessive for a home backup solution. Last time I tried, I found that setting up Bacula was very difficult and much more difficult than graphical applications like Cobian Backup.

This can be combined with an online service, Dropbox is easy to set-up and has good reviews.

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I use Acronis TrueImage Home to image each group of data; the images are then copied to other physical disks. For example, my OS and App volumes are imaged to my internal backup disk and to my NAS. And my NAS is imaged to my internal backup disk. At any one time every byte on my disks are backed up in at least one other place, and in the case of key data (personal files, photo's etc) there are multiple versions in different location.

Storage is ridiculously cheap (the new Samsung F2 1.5TB drives are £50) so storage space is simply not an issue.

If you don't want to pay for TrueImage, the are free alternatives, such as Bacula, NASBackup and Clonezilla.

Note: Although the latest version of TrueImage is £40, you can often find the previous version for free on the front of magazine cover-disks - that's how I got my first copy of TrueImage 9...

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For backing up a full network, BackupPC is the solution I like. It can do multi-level incremental backups. BackupPC is especially good if you are backing up a large number of computers with similar configurations (e.g. a computer lab where all the computers have the same versions of all programs), because BackupPC collapses multiple identical files into one, saving space. (I'm sure some other backup solutions do this as well.)

You can't use it with Optical media, however. You'll need a server with enough disk space to hold the backups.

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Use Jungle Disk to mount Amazon S3 service as a local disk on your desktop. Windows, mac and linux are supported. Then use your favourite backup software on each platform to do the backup. It costs 15c per Gb.

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Note that's 15c per GB-month, not 15c per GB. Big difference. – Andrew Coleson Oct 20 '09 at 19:30

I think SyncBack is a great solution. It's very flexible, easy to use/setup, and reasonably priced. I use it to backup two desktops and two laptops to an external drive. It also synchronize the MP3 folders across all four computers.

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If you don't mind paying, Backblaze is brain-dead simple.

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Considered RAID 1 in the individual machines or a NAS running RAID5?

Either will secure you against any single HDD failure.

I've had HDDs fail but I haven't been robbed, struck by lightning nor had a disk eaten by a T-rex. Many people I know and companies I've worked at have suffered HDD failure. I never met anyone who lost data due to lightning strike. Normally people use surge protectors.

The single most likely cause of data loss is human error and HDD failure is second.

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Won't protect you against lightning strike, fire or anything else that could fry all your disks at once, though. Nothing beats having your backup in another location. – Paul Tomblin Oct 8 '09 at 14:00
It won't protect you against somebody (you in a distracted moment, or an intruder, or another user) from deleting stuff you need, either. RAID is not a backup. It will protect against single hard disk failures well, but not against anything else, like theft. I'd suspect that data loss is in general not primarily a problem with a failing hard disk. – David Thornley Oct 8 '09 at 15:43
Actually, a UPS could protect you from a numerous power issues. Yes it's better to have off-site backup, but don't forget the costs involved. – osij2is Oct 20 '09 at 18:55

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